If you run a property-management firm, it's important that you and your staff are able to communicate with tenants and applicants, no matter what languages they use. Here are a few ideas to help you navigate the wonderful world of communication with others who may not speak English.
Hire a Written-Translation Service
For tenants and applicants who speak a foreign language, have all documents and instructions translated by a professional service. This is important so there is no risk of miscommunication. Look for a professional translation service that specializes in working with legal documents so the verbiage is translated correctly.
The documents that need to be translated are the application, the lease, and any additional paperwork that you may require tenants to sign, such as a pet-authorization form. It's also a good idea to have instructions translated, such as what to do when the power goes out.
Hire a Verbal-Translation Service
Sometimes, you may need to speak directly with someone who does not speak the same language. In these situations, having someone with you to translate between all parties can be extremely beneficial in getting whatever the situation is under control and resolved. These types of services can be done in person, over the phone, or by placing a video call. Since many languages have various dialects—German has seven—it's important to ask which dialect the individuals prefer on their application for tenancy so the verbal-translation service can be more accommodating.
Hire a Sign-Language Interpreter
Foreign languages may not be the only barrier. You may have tenants and applicants who only communicate by using sign language. As you know, it's against the Americans with Disabilities Act to discriminate against people with disabilities or not provide appropriate accommodations for them. Hire a sign-language interpreter so everyone is on the same page when discussions are necessary.
It's important to understand that sign language is different in different areas. American Sign Language (ASL) is not the same as British Sign Language (BSL). Therefore, you'll need to be sure to have appropriate options available. You can include the more common options on the tenancy application. For example, if your community has a lot of people who originated from Mexico, the appropriate sign language would be LSM (Lengua de señas mexicana). When hiring a sign-language interpreter, be sure to tell them which sign language you will need to have interpreted.
Talk to a company such as Professional Sign Language Interpreting Inc to find the options you need.